Ask Our Designers!

Setting up your art files for large format success

We regularly get questions on how to set up art files for large format – ranging from how to spec colors to what size images do I need. Our designers have compiled a list of some of the more frequently asked questions to ensure your large format graphics are top-notch.

What are Pantone values and why are they important?

Pantone is a color matching system that ensures colors look exactly the same across substrates. Supplying a Pantone value allows us to guarantee that your brand colors match no matter if they are being cut from vinyl, printed on fabric, or included on your design collateral.

Pantone color guide

Why Illustrator?

Illustrator is the industry standard for large format, it allows you to design at large scale and easily link images, apply Pantone colors, and is an accepted file type for almost all of our different products.

Why can’t I use InDesign or Photoshop?

Most designers I know have their favorite Adobe programs, however Illustrator is the industry standard and is accepted by most vendors. Building your designs Illustrator will help avoid costly preflighting fees and avoid delays to your project. (InDesign is optimized for brochures, Photoshop for images)

What is packaging and why do I have to do it?

Packaging is a simple step that allows you to easily gather send all files associated with your art. That means if you’ve placed any photographs or included any typefaces, they will all be accessible when we proof and print your design. In Adobe Illustrator, it’s as simple as saving your image and then selecting File > Package.

Packaging files for print

Where can I find templates?

Ask your Account Manager for the templates for your specific project. They have access to the most up to date templates and can provide templates that include call outs for things like counters and monitors that you’ll need to design around.

What is dpi?

Dpi stands for dots per inch, it’s a measurement system for image resolution. For small scale applications the standard is 300 dpi, for large scale it is (typically) 100 dpi. Why so low for large scale? Imagine a billboard, if you were to look up close the image would look a little fuzzy, but from a distance where you can see the whole board, the image looks clear.

How do I check an image’s dpi?

In Adobe Photoshop go to Image > Image Size and look for Resolution (Pixels/Inch). If you are downloading an image from a stock image site this information should be available in the image description.

Check image size in  Adobe Creative Suite

How big can I blow up an image?

It depends. Check your image size and resolution (dpi) in Adobe Photoshop or in the product description if browsing a stock site.

If you are planning on using your image for large format, you can open the image in Adobe Photoshop and change the dpi to 100 and unselect “resample.” This will resize your image to its largest possible size for most large-scale applications.

If you are looking at an image on a stock site, look for the image size, double check the resolution is 300 dpi, and multiply the image size by three. This will give you the rough large-scale dimensions.

The best way to be sure if an image will print clearly is to send it over to our design team. We’ll double check the image and let you know what its size restrictions are.

What’s the difference between vector and raster?

Vector files can be scaled infinitely, raster files have set parameters. For example, most logos are vector based and can be scaled up without degrading the quality of the image. Common file types include .ai, .eps and sometimes .pdf. An example of a raster file is a photograph, you can only blow up the images so large before it starts getting blurry or pixelated. Common file types are .jpg, .png or .tiff.

Raster vs image file

What is Preflighting and why is it required?

Preflighting is our process of checking over art to make sure that art is ready to be produced at large scale. Large format is slightly different from most printing formats and you’d be surprised how much even the most seasoned designer can miss! We require this step because we want to make to make sure your art is produced exactly the way you expect it.

Can you design my booth art for me?

Yes! We offer in house graphic design services for everything from branding to booth graphics. Talk to your account manager or contact our sales department to get the ball rolling.

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